The proposed 35MW Darwin big battery has received a major funding boost, with the federal government announcing it would provide $15 million of the estimated $30 million cost of the project, which is expected to significantly reduce gas generation in the local grid.
The Darwin battery – with about half an hour of storage – is to be built on the Darwin-Katherine grid and is considered crucial to allow more rooftop solar and more large scale solar farms to be added to that grid. A tender process is underway, and a tender is expected to be finalised in the next two months.
Federal energy minister Angus Taylor says the funds – along with another $15 million to support remote renewable micro-grids – is part of a bilateral deal with the Northern Territory government. That deal is yet to be finalised and will likely include significant support for major gas projects.
“The Morrison Government is firmly focused on delivering affordable, reliable and secure electricity to all Australians,” Taylor said in a statement.
“These projects will provide reliable and secure power for Territorians and deliver affordable energy solutions for remote indigenous communities. This supports economic development, over 200 local jobs and reduces emissions.”
For its part, the Northern Territory Government says it has committed $30 million to battery energy storage systems – including a newly expanded home battery storage scheme, which offers $6,000 rebates – and $69 million to advancing remote and regional microgrids across the Territory.
It has already estimated that the Darwin battery would deliver savings of $6 million a year, and a five-year payback, by reducing the amount of gas generation.
Territory renewables and energy minister Eva Lawler said the federal funding meant that the NT could allocate more funds to renewables, particularly solar which is the dominant technology in the top end, to advance its efforts to meet its 50 per cent renewables target by 2030.
“We’ve backed renewables and so have Territorians – they know renewables deliver cleaner, cheaper and secure power,” she said in an emailed statement.
“This investment by the Federal Government will support our efforts to deliver renewable projects across the Territory and I look forward to building on these foundational projects.”
Sam McMahon, the Coalition’s Senator for the Northern Territory, who last year described renewables as “dole bludgers” and the giant Sun Cable solar and battery project as a “great hoax … on the gullible”, said boosting the reliability of the NT electricity grid is important.
“Reliable and affordable energy helps families and businesses to get ahead,” Senator McMahon said. “Less money Territorians spend on electricity means more opportunities to grow and prosper, particularly in our job-creating industries.”
The Sun Cable project, the world’s biggest in both solar (10GW) and battery storage terms (up to 30GWh) is looking to set up a manufacturing facility in Darwin to support its project as it continues to tie in agreements, contracts and funding for the $20 billion project. The initial work has been backed by billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid and founder/editor of The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.